Well, I (and several others) have exchanged mosquito bites for sunburns. In some ways, our “vacation” feels rougher than our regular site life. We went on our first round of geological survey today in search of fine-grained volcanic rocks to compare with material of some of the tools and flakes from the SNAP site. Mostly this involved driving around in two mini-vans for two and a half hours. At least thirty minutes of this was bumpy, curvy two-track up a mountain. It must have been a funny sight , these two rented mini-vans off-roading. We are pretty sure this is the greatest adventure the vans will ever see. The driving around was not the rough part though (except for the unfortunate souls with car sickness).
We visited two sources in the Klondike Mountains today. At the first, the hike was short but quite steep. Once at the top of the rock outcropping, Lindsay and Dave went off to geek out and take samples while Nathan taught the rest of us how to use the portable XRFs to shoot X-rays at rock samples in order to determine their elemental compositions. We took seven samples while the sky cleared of its grey blanket of clouds and began to warm up. Afterwards, we ate lunch in the shade of one of the few decent-sized trees in the area.
Following some trial and error in trying to find accessible roads, we hiked up a hill a bit to find our second site. Despite how winded I felt, we were actually quite lucky with the site because we had originally thought that we might need to hike much higher. There, in the full heat of the sun, we took eight more XRF samples and found some quartz veins in the black rock as well. I have a small piece of the clear crystal to take home and maybe make into a necklace.
So I guess that doesn’t sound so bad but the 90-some degree heat, uphill treks, and threat of rattlesnakes (yipes!) made me miss our shade-filled Slocan camp and swear-off ever becoming a geologist. Honestly, lab work is sounding better and better on this trip, though I always thought I would suffocate in a lab.
Someone put a little dock up at the beach on camp, and Anna and I spent some time there this evening. We saw a momma duck with a very large gaggle of babies swimming on the lake. Small sparrow-like birds dove and glided all around us. The sun touched the peak of the nearest mountain and quickly climbed down behind it, faster than I have ever seen! But it left streams of light illuminating the other mountains with a strange, beamed glow. When wakes from motorboats gently rocked the dock, I could almost imagine I was back on Lake Maxincuckee… except for the smell which lacks the algae tang of Lake Max. When I started to feel the chill of the sunset, we walked back to shore. On the way, we saw several schools of small fish swim under the little bridge of the dock – dark dashes skirting across the upper layers of the shallow water. I could certainly move here quite happily.
Today has been both eventful and quasi-unproductive. We went back on survey today. Our first stop was a pretty straight shot in (relatively). We scrambled up the side of the mountain over some pretty unstable stones at points. Once we crested the first ridge, we paused to rest, and Dave spotted an odd shape beneath a tree further up. When I finally located what he was talking about, I saw two ears sticking up. I thought it might be a lynx or coyote or something relatively harmless of the sort. But then it got up (cue dramatic music). The creature was quite unmistakably a bear and not a black one! Thankfully, it ambled its way across the mountains, around the corner, and away from us. Dave and Nathan left us at the edge of the ridge on bear watch and with the car keys, just in case, while they hiked up to the nearest outcrop of potentially useful rock. As they climbed close to level with where the bear had been, we realized just how big the bear was! I had thought that maybe it was a youth, a year or two old, on its own for its first summer. But the mountains play tricks on you, and this bear had to have been close to the size of a full-grown man when it was on all fours! It did not seem to have the hump of a grizzly, according to Dave, but it was one big brown bear. I was grateful to finally get off the mountain after we took about five more XRF samples from the outcropping.
We ate lunch on the edge of the Curlew State Park, and then the quasi-unsuccessful part began/ We drove around on two-tracks for a few hours, hitting hairpin turns and No Trespassing signs over and over and earning funny looks from a few work crews in our off-roading mini-vans. Finally, we came to a “Road Closed” sign close enough for us to walk to a potential source, so we piled out and began trekking. Thankfully, it was still on two-track, but mostly in the scorching sun and up and down some hills. We walked for a ways (about half a mile, I’m told) before giving up as there were no rocky outcroppings in sight. On the hike back, however, Dave finally found a small, suitable site, and we gathered some samples to take back as we had left the XRFs in the vans, anticipating the long hike.
We finally wound our way back to cap a little after 5 p.m.. Rachel is feeling sick, and I seem to be developing a headache, though I’m not sure if it’s from heat and dehydration or the chemicals I used as part of cleaning crew today. Molly is watchfully nursing both of us now.